Chapter 17

IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF CONVERSATIONS

Snapshot

Although on average managers spend around 80% of their time in conversation, not all of these are as productive as they could be. Conversation encompasses many forms of interaction, including what could be called dialogue, debate, or simply communication. It can be a one-off process between two individuals, or a series of longer term interactions involving several people.

High quality conversation is the basis for effective knowledge sharing so it is important that individuals and organizations work at improving it. We take conversational skills for granted, so it needs deliberate planning ahead and then reflection after a conversation to identify the lessons for improvement. A framework based on effective knowledge-sharing and dialogue principles is offered as a way of structuring these processes. It includes a step-by-step way to think through the conversation in relation to key factors.

Good conversations include a healthy balance between listening and telling, between reflection and action orientation, and between play and analysis. Consciously assessing the balance of these factors, as well as the power structure, emotional ambience, and mindsets of those involved, all contributes to productive conversations.

Making time to work with the framework can seem difficult in organizations where conversation is not viewed as a productive use of time. However, recognizing the knowledge implications and the potential for improved ...

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